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The Independent Critic

Steven Strait, Laura Ramsey, Sebastian Stan
Renny Harlin
J.S. Cardone
97 Mins.
Screen Gems
 "The Covenant" Review 
Renny Harlin has received five Razzie nominations for "Worst Director." Here's my vote for a sixth for "The Covenant," a pathetic cross between "The Lost Boys," "Zapped," and nearly every other teenage supernatural thriller that has ever been made.

"The Covenant" stars (I use the word "star" VERY loosely), Steven Strait as Caleb, a sort of unofficial leader of The Sons of Ipswich (which we learn early on, gratefully, is not a boy band). The "sons" are, in fact, four young men with supernatural powers, directly descending from the witches of Puritan America. "The Covenant" refers to an agreement between the families to keep the powers a secret as revelation inevitably leads to persecution. This secret, however, is horridly kept as it seems nearly every young, hot thing in the film (and there are plenty) seems to know about "The Sons." Furthermore, when Caleb's new girlfriend, Sarah (Laura Ramsey), decides to research it appears to take her about five minutes to find out the truth.

It's so hard to keep a secret these days.

Caleb, along with his buddies Reid (Toby Hemingway), Pogue (the appropriately named Taylor Kitsch) and Tyler (Chace Crawford) soon find themselves face-to-face with a mysterious newcomer, Chase (Sebastian Stan). It has long been said that there was a fifth family in "The Covenant," however, the fifth young man had been murdered. Might this long held assumption be wrong?

Oh me. Oh my. Oh me. Oh my.

Director Renny Harlin has been a good director, which is what makes his forays into complete garbage such as "The Covenant" such an amazing disappointment. It is difficult to imagine that Harlin took a look at the dailies on this film and said to himself "Damn fine film."

There's simply no way. Even the opening credits are a disappointment, saved only by the presence of White Zombie's "More Human than Human."

Really, think about it. Isn't it a bit sad when a Rob Zombie tune is the film's highlight? Straight ("Sky High" and "Undiscovered") and Ramsey ("She's the Man" and "Lords of Dogtown") actually show potential here, but are swamped by material that bounces between campy, sub-moronic, boring and lifeless.

Special effects, especially in the film's closing battles, are laughably bad and even the film's editing seems a bit mismatched in three or four places. Screenwriter J.S. Cardone has penned several "B" movies, but here he manages to take a decent concept and beat it to death until all that's left is a kiddie college version of a supernatural thriller. Likewise, Harlin makes use of nearly every supernatural thriller cliche' in the book...dark lighting, rainy nights, spiders and that all too familiar suspense thriller musical score.

"The Lost Boys" worked largely because it only sporadically took itself seriously. It was stylish, campy fun and it seemed like everyone involved knew it. Here, Harlin seems hellbent on making "The Covenant" into a razzle dazzle supernatural flick and he ends up ignoring the opportunity to turn this film into a mindless, yet reasonable entertaining film. The fact that Harlin so clearly sets up the film for a sequel only serves to make his failure more disappointing.

Only the modestly entertaining performances of Strait and Ramsey save this film from complete failure. That said, it's hard to feel good when a couple "C" list actors are the highlight in a film directed by a former "A" list director.

"The Sons of Ipswich?" Maybe they should have been a boy band after all.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic